Printer Friendly Version

The Foolishness of Today's Church Worship Wars


            In modern times, many churches and denominations in America have been torn apart by worship wars that have raged and pit generation against generation and group against group, leading to church divisions and much added disunity among professing Christian churches.  But what if these worship wars were totally unnecessary? 

            God has given a creative and inventive mind to man.  In his ingenuity, man invented musical instruments and composed songs (both religious and secular) over the centuries.  In the Old Testament, we see musical instruments being used in Genesis and later in the ceremonial worship of the old covenant.  We also find songs composed by various believers in the Old and New Testament in response to various acts of God.  We do not believe that there is anything inherently sinful with playing or listening to musical instruments (e.g., pianos, guitars, violins) or composing, singing, or listening to songs of human composition.

             However, having said this, what turns the prevailing wisdom on its head is what is known as the regulative principle of worship.  At the time of the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, such great Reformers as John Calvin in Switzerland and John Knox in Scotland sought to return the Church to the Holy Scripture.  They believed that the Bible alone is the word of God.  They demonstrated from Scripture that the Great Physician, God Himself, has prescribed how He wants to be worshipped.  They showed that God has revealed to us in His Word how he ought to be worshipped and warned us neither to add to nor take away from His institutions.  So the regulative principle of worship, as taught in Scripture, is the answer to today’s worship wars.  The key to resolving the differences between the many divisions in Christianity today is for professing Christians to turn from doing church their way to obeying all that Jesus commanded us in His Word (Matthew 28:20).

              The worship wars divided the elderly from their Baby Boomer children; it has divided the Baby Boomer generation from the Generation X and Millennials who followed after them.  Some churches cling to “traditional music” with pianos, organs, and traditional hymnals.  Other churches have thrown all this out and redesigned their churches to accommodate guitars, drums, large speakers, lights, and the contemporary elements of a rock concert.  In place of hymnals they have video screens and “praise songs.”  Still other churches have attempted to blend this traditional and contemporary worship together in an effort to appeal to both groups or to show reverence for the past and present.

            Some churches light candles in worship; some churches don’t. 
            Some churches burn incense in worship; many churches don’t.
            Some churches have choirs; some churches don’t. 
            Some churches celebrate Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Pentecost in worship; many only celebrate Christmas and Easter.
            Some churches celebrate a holy season of Lent; many only celebrate Advent. 
            Some churches encourage their congregants to kneel to take the Lord’s Supper, and to bow down to images of Jesus, saints, or statues; others do not.
            Some churches are high church and big on tradition; others are low church and more focused on evangelism and relevance to today’s youth.

            What if all these divisions are not necessary?  What if God’s Word actually speaks clearly on these issues of worship?  What if God is true to His Word, which says, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)?

            What if God’s Word prescribes the way in which He is to be worshipped in such a way as to resolve all the modern worship wars and bring truth and unity to His church?

            As you meditate upon the following studies on worship, please keep these things in mind.  We are not against musical instruments or singing.  We are not against music or art.  We are not against celebrations and gift giving and joy.  Yet, what we are most concerned about is obedience to God and His Word.  We want to seek true Christian unity by obeying God’s Word and seeking to conform our practices to what God calls us to be and do.  We want to worship God in spirit and truth—to give God the honor that is due to Him.  This requires us to humble ourselves and exchange the foolish and divisive practice of worshipping God in the way that pleases us for the true worship that God has set forth for us in His Word.  A careful consideration of the following studies will help you see that God has indeed spoken clearly, authoritatively, and once and for all about how He wills to be worshipped.  Our duty is to take Him at His word and to obey Him in the area of worship.  “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:15). 


Copyright © 2013  Wabash Bible Ministries.  All rights reserved.